No matter what type of business you have or are starting, a DBA name is an important consideration for any owner. From sole proprietors to corporations, this guide can help you understand, obtain, and maintain a great DBA name for your Tennessee-based business.
The following is a guide on what you need to know about registering and maintaining a Tennessee DBA name.
What is a Tennessee “doing business as” (DBA) name?
DBA means “doing business as.” It’s a way for a business to operate under a different name. In Tennessee, “assumed name” is another term often used. You may also see “trade name” or “fictitious name” used sometimes, but they all mean the same thing in Tennessee.
It’s important to note that a DBA name is just a legal way to use a different name; it doesn’t create a separate business entity. Think of DBA names as aliases, useful for marketing but not for legal or tax purposes.
While a DBA name can be useful for any kind of business, different entities may choose to file for different reasons.
Below are the general categories of businesses filing for a DBA name:
- Sole proprietors and partnerships often register a DBA name to simply have a business name, rather than operate under their own name or names. If Anna Smith wants to call her business “Quality Carpentry,” she needs to register that DBA name to do business as “Quality Carpentry.” This involves using the name when advertising and opening a bank account for her business.
- Corporations and limited liability companies (LLCs) often use DBA names to simplify their existing name or operate under the name of a new venture, such as a line of unique products or services. DBA names allow these companies to do business under the brand name of that new venture. The simplest use of a DBA name, modifying the existing name, means a business like “John Harper and Sons, LLC” can drop the “LLC” from any marketing and advertising efforts moving forward.
Even the smallest of businesses can benefit from having a DBA name under which to operate. Below is a list of the biggest pluses that come from choosing a new name for your business.
- A better name: The right name speaks to what your business does, which makes marketing easier. If you’re an LLC or corporation, creating a fresh brand not associated with the parent company is also a marketing plus.
- Affordable: In Tennessee, the cost of a DBA name is about $20.
- Flexibility: Adapting to the demands of your market is crucial for long-term success. Obtaining a DBA name lets you diversify your business relatively fast and without a lot of fuss.
- Privacy: A DBA name allows you to open a bank account under your new name. Sole proprietors are thus able to separate their personal finances from those of their businesses. Many also appreciate the privacy afforded by not using their own names when advertising.
Are you ready to register your own DBA name? Keep reading to learn how to obtain and maintain a DBA name in Tennessee.
How do I choose a Tennessee DBA name?
Choosing a DBA name is an important decision. You want to make sure your name represents your business well. “Carl’s Crazy Kitchen Creations” has a different feel from “Boutique Baking,” for example. A strong name that conveys not only the nature of your business but also it’s aesthetic is an important branding concern. The right name makes all future marketing that much easier.
Once you have a name — or a few names — in mind, the next step is to use the Tennessee Secretary of State’s name search tool. This will show you which name or names are available. Also, take note of which names may be very close to the one you’re considering. You don’t want to run the risk of getting a new name just to have your business too easily confused with another. In general, your DBA name needs to be distinguishable from the names of existing businesses registered or reserved with the state.
The final element to choosing your new DBA name is making sure it adheres to Tennessee’s naming restrictions. Your name must NOT include terms that:
- Falsely associate your business with existing organizations
- Imply any criminal activity
- Imply your business is a government agency
- Include restricted words, such as “Attorney,” “Hospital,” or “Bank”
- Imply your business is something it’s not. You can’t include the designator “LLC,” for example, if you aren’t actually an LLC.
A last note on naming: Take some time to consider trademarking, and use the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) to see if your name is available there. Federal trademarking reserves your name outside of Tennessee should you end up operating outside of your home state and can also help protect your logo and other brand-related elements. You can also search using the Tennessee Secretary of State website for state-level trademarks.
Checking domain name availability at this time is also a good idea. A website is a tool every business needs, and snagging a URL with your company’s name is the first crucial step. Try ZenBusiness’s Domain Name Registration services to get your business online quickly and easily.
How do I register a Tennessee DBA name?
Registering a DBA name in Tennessee is a fairly straightforward process, regardless of what type of business entity you have. While some states’ compliance requirements make owners publish notice of their name change in local newspapers for a set number of weeks, Tennessee involves a form, a filing fee, and waiting for approval.
Below are the steps to register your Tennessee DBA name, broken down by type of business.
Sole Proprietors and General Partnerships
- Obtain the correct business license for the county where your business is located by contacting the Register of Deeds in that county.
- Once you’ve used the name search tool through the Tennessee Secretary of State website to verify that your DBA name is available, complete the form. You’ll need a physical address for the business, using your own if you don’t have a storefront or separate office, and the names and addresses of all business owners.
- Have your form notarized. Usually, this can be done right in the office where you’re filing your DBA name. If not, check with the county courthouse (or try a quick online search) for notary publics near you. Notaries do charge a fee, although it’s not likely to be any more expensive than your filing fee.
- Submit the form to the Register of Deeds office, along with your filing fee. Fees vary by county but are usually around $20.
- Because corporations, LLCs, and limited liability partnerships (LLPs) must file for a DBA name at the state level, you have the option of filing online through the Secretary of State’s website. If you want to file by mail, you can print the form from the website.
- Complete the form. Information needed includes the DBA name being registered and the current business name.
- Submit the form and filing fee of $20. You can pay by credit card if filing online, although there may also be a small service fee. If submitting by mail, send the form and fee to:
Division of Business Services
312 Rosa L. Parks Avenue, Snodgrass Tower, 6th Floor
Nashville, TN 37243
How do I manage ongoing DBA name compliance in Tennessee?
In Tennessee, renewing, renaming, or canceling a DBA name in Tennessee is pretty straightforward.
For sole proprietors and partnerships, the business license — with which you registered your DBA name — renews automatically with every tax return. Changing a DBA name means filing for a new one. Cancel or withdraw a business license (thus closing your DBA name) via a final tax return with the state.
Corporations and other incorporated businesses must renew their DBA names every five years, either online or by mail. Changing or canceling your name can also be done through the Tennessee Secretary of State website. Each of these actions costs $20.
More Tennessee DBA FAQs
How much does it cost to register a Tennessee DBA name?
Registering a DBA name varies by county, but it is usually $20. The fee at the state level is also $20, although filing online may incur an additional cost.
What is the processing time to register a Tennessee DBA?
Processing times vary, but you can generally expect to have your DBA name approved and registered in one to four weeks.
Do I need a DBA name for my Tennessee business?
A DBA name is only a legal requirement if you want to do business under a new name. DBA names are useful marketing tools and worth considering.
If I register a DBA name in Tennessee, can another business use the same name?
Yes, filing for a DBA name in Tennessee does not give you exclusive rights to that name. However, DBA names must be distinguishable from one another.
Can a business in Tennessee have multiple DBA names?
Yes, you can register as many as you want. For example, a professional photographer may want to create unique brands around their wedding and sports photography services. Just remember that each DBA name must be registered and maintained on its own.
Is a DBA name the same thing as a fictitious business name in Tennessee?
Yes, although Tennessee refers to DBA names as “assumed names” on its forms.
Do I need a DBA name in Tennessee if I use my own name for a sole proprietorship?
No, a DBA name is only required when doing business under a name not your own. However, it may be to your benefit to consider registering a DBA name to give you privacy and add professionalism to your business.
Will using a DBA name affect how my business is taxed in Tennessee?
No. A DBA name is merely an alias under which you market your business. It doesn’t affect how your business is taxed at any level.
Are you ready to move forward with business formation in Tennessee? ZenBusiness can help! Our business experts take the headache out of all the formation and compliance aspects of ownership. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you start and grow your Tennessee business today.